The Aug. 27, 2021 order, announced and now final, is already being appealed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The court ruling says Gov. Ron DeSantis and his team acted without any legal authority while enforcing a strict ban against mask mandates put in schools, nearly a week after issue.
Hours later, DeSantis would appeal the order. Judge John C. Cooper from Leon County Circuit Court had a 37-page ruling confirmed that the governor, State Board of Education and the Department of Education did not properly apply the Parents Bill of Rights and had no authority to punish school districts that demonstrated their mask policy was reasonable and achieves a compelling state interest. Passing the Parents’ Bill of Rights, by the Florida Legislature recognized the importance of parental rights, but Cooper wrote that parents’ rights had reasonable limitations depending upon reasonable safety considerations, compelling state needs for health care or the child’s condition.
Politics and Child Safety
An appeal filed by Governor DeSantis in the polarizing legal battle in the State and Federal courts, confirms he stood by individual rights of parents while school district leaders fight to protect the collective health of school children from surging delta variant of the coronavirus. The ruling delays efforts by the Governor and Florida Department of Education to punish “errant” schools and their officials to enforce face mask mandates at school with no opt-outs besides for a medical reason against this specific orders. DeSantis lawyers filed a case in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, seeking reversal of Cooper’s ruling which was automatically. The plaintiffs want the state to restore the money withheld from Alachua and Broward county school districts with the ruling effected, as per the lead attorney for parents who sued the state.
Student Safety Above All
Alachua and Broward counties were two school districts imposing a mandatory mask requirement for students going back to school while the Board of Education ordered Richard Corcoran, the Education Commissioner to pursue penalties. Corcoran announced withholding the school board member salaries in those districts to punish violation of state law, despite the judge’s earlier ruling that DeSantis and Corcoran could not authorize such action. Thirteen Florida school districts, comprising a majority of all public school children, have imposed mask mandates. Despite threats, the school districts stuck to their mask mandates. They argue about following state law by giving parents who show medical need to have their child excluded from universal mask mandate policy. The Constitution requires protecting the health of students, by containing the spread of the deadly virus.
But the Governor and Education officials claim these districts violate the Parents Bill of Rights, a new statute effective from July 1, prohibiting the state from “infringing on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, healthcare, and mental health of a child without even demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest.” Cooper said that local school boards could enforce a strict mask mandate just as long as the law is followed in full but state officials have selectively enforced this Parents Bill of Rights, making the actions of the governor, capricious and arbitrary. The judge had ruled the state, which relied heavily on the law, focused only on portions of the law, the part prohibiting infringement of parents’ rights.